For too long, China has probed our resolve, even as we acted with restraint in the face of its provocations. With 20 of our men in uniform left dead by Chinese aggression in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the country is now rising against the bully in one voice. If there’s a time to stand up to it, this is it. Our soldiers’ sacrifice won’t go waste, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said. As Indians get increasingly vocal, Mint has received a range of responses and suggestions. Inspired by The New York Times’ front page of 24 May, which was dedicated to covid-19 victims, we decided to amplify these voices. Laden with emotion and imbued with confidence, these views reflect the strength of a proud nation that is clear about its sovereignty, democratic advantage, and will to achieve its dreams without denying anyone theirs.
How we deal with our Himalayan crisis requires a grasp of what Beijing is playing for with its devious “salami slicing" tactics of making military incursions along the LAC, followed by dubious avowals of peace. Lives lost in Monday night’s “violent face-off" came as a big shock because we believed a “de-escalation process" was in progress after last month’s high-wire confrontation. That China has opted not to dial down its bellicosity could only mean this is not just another border brawl between adversaries. It points to a larger Chinese plan of Asian dominance. Its motives are unclear. It could be a diversionary tactic that serves a political agenda for the leadership back in Beijing, for example. It could also be an expression of hubris, given that country’s self-image as tomorrow’s superpower. Its geopolitical ambitions seem to have been stoked by talk around the world of an “Asian century" in the offing. As the continent’s largest economy, it appears to assume that this will translate into its hegemony. The chief aim of its skulduggery, however, could be to gain some leverage over India’s conduct in world affairs by using slices of territory as bargaining chips. Such a ploy, which seems to think of Indian democracy as a weakness, has dim chances of success.
Regardless of the asymmetry in economic and military power between India and China, Indian democracy grants us a form of potency that Beijing needs to ponder. Indian foreign policy is shaped by the will of our people. We will not brook another country trying to dictate our agenda. In short, no back-room deal can be struck in Beijing’s favour. As for the high-altitude chips that Beijing may imagine it holds, we have always advocated dialogue for conflict resolution, and top-level talks could yet make Beijing see that its quest for hegemony will fail if hard power is all it can wield on the world stage. While we push for discussions, however, we should also remind China of our defence capabilities and global goodwill. The future of democracy in emerging Asia may well depend on India’s success. And so long as the will of our people prevails, China cannot play bully. Mr Xi, we are not pushovers.